Sortie of the Scharnhorstand Gneisenau 21–27 November 1939

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Map Code: Ax00266

The capital ships (battleships) Scharnhorst and Gneisenau left from Wilhelmshaven on 21 November for the strait between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, with the intention of sinking British patrol vessels. Following a spell of bad weather, on 23 November the British armed merchant ship HMS Rawalpindi was sighted on patrol in the waters off Iceland. Rawalpindi tried to seek cover in a fog bank, yet Scharnhorst and Gneisenau closed in. The British captain, Edward Kennedy, ignored requests to abandon ship and after an exchange of shots, Scharnhorst opened fire. Captain Kennedy is said to have remarked, ‘We’ll fight them both, they’ll sink us, and that will be that. Good-bye’. True to his word, Rawalpindi went down fighting, ablaze and broken in two after a short 15-minute battle. Scharnhorst rescued 38 survivors and sustained insignificant damage; the two battleships returned to Wilhelmshaven on 27 November.

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